Non-Partisan Group Of Civic Leaders Honors President Lyndon B. Johnson's Landmark Congressional Address "We Shall Overcome" And Moves To Ensure That No Voter Is Left Behind

Mar 15, 2016, 06:00 ET from Drum Major Institute

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A non-partisan group of civic leaders, including Martin Luther King III and Ambassador Andrew Young today commemorate President Lyndon B. Johnson's extraordinary "We Shall Overcome" speech.  On March 15, 1965, eight days after Bloody Sunday, President Lyndon Johnson addressed an emergency session of Congress to urge passage of the Voting Rights Act.  President Johnson declared that night that his dream was "to be the President who protected the right of every American to vote in every election."

Over the past few years, the passage of voter ID laws has brought renewed attention to the fact that millions of Americans do not have photo ID.  But the lack of photo ID imperils more than the right to vote.  Without photo ID, citizens cannot check into hotels, airports or banks – and they are at the mercy of the billion-dollar check-cashing industry.  Rather than fight over whether ID should be required to vote, our leaders should focus on helping to empower those who do not have access to all facets of the American Dream merely because they lack a photo ID.

In a public letter published today, the leaders of the Drum Major Institute (DMI) observe that the answer is staring us in the face.  The U.S. Government already offers all citizens a photo ID in the form of a U.S. Passport Card, which can be obtained through thousands of post offices and local government offices.  The only barrier is the $55 fee.  On this important anniversary, DMI has called upon our leaders in government to waive the fee for those in need.

Ambassador Andrew Young, Chairman Emeritus of DMI, said: "The responsibility of casting a vote for President of the United States places a burden on the conscience of every American to choose wisely.  But there should not be any tangible obstacles impeding citizens from fulfilling their civic duty.  No one should be in a position of saying that they couldn't afford to vote." 

Mr. King, Co-founder of DMI said: "Everyone wants to know who will win this primary or the next, who will win the nominations, and who will win the final contest in November.  But if citizens who have the right to choose their leaders are unable to cast a ballot, then we will certainly know that regardless of who wins the election, America will have lost." 

DMI Co-founder William Wachtel said: "The lack of photo ID should not prevent anyone from exercising their fundamental right to vote.  Having proper identification is empowering – even beyond the basic civil right of voting – and we are devoted to helping citizens who are on the outside looking in be equal participants in American opportunity."

On February 17, 2016, in South Carolina, DMI launched its No Voter Left Behind (NVLB) initiative.  Its purpose is to ensure that no registered voter is left out of the democratic process simply due to the lack of acceptable photo identification.  NVLB provides assistance by raising awareness, offering informational and support services through a nation-wide toll-free hotline (855) VOTE-2016 and its website as well as by devoting on the ground resources to assist voters. And, until our elected leaders act, NVLB will itself help eligible voters living below the poverty line to cover the fees necessary to obtain a photo ID.

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SOURCE Drum Major Institute